2018 was a wild year for North Carolina politics. Don’t expect things to get any tamer in 2019.

For this column, I tried to stay away from anything safe — so predicting that Dan Forest will announce a run for governor was out. Bold predictions only. Here we go.

1) 9th Congressional District goes to special election — and Republicans hold the seat

One way or another, expect the absentee by mail election fraud to prevent Republican Mark Harris from being seated. Either the U.S. House or the State Board of Elections will force a new race, sending the 9th Congressional District back to a primary.

In a crowded primary field, the Republican Party will nominate a new candidate. And in a race with millions of dollars poured in from national groups, the Republican will edge out a victory over Democrat Dan McCready.

Dan McCready

2) General Assembly fails to pass a budget

Without the benefit of a supermajority, Republicans in the state legislature could have a lot harder time getting bills passed. Gov. Roy Cooper will continue his torrid vetoing pace in 2019.

The long session will produce a budget that passes handily in the state House and Senate, including a massive teacher pay raise. But Republican leadership will maintain the personal income tax rate and shave another quarter-point off the corporate tax rate — drawing a gubernatorial veto.

Without the votes to override, North Carolina will remain budgetless. Luckily, the General Assembly has already thought through this scenario and required the state to maintain its existing budget in the absence of a new one.

3) Roy Cooper’s approval ratings fall significantly

After two years of being able to stay above the political fray and serve as a fundraiser and figurehead, Gov. Roy Cooper will be forced in 2019 to make actual consequential decisions. In doing so, his stock will fade in the eye of the public and Cooper’s sky-high approval ratings will come down to earth.

Gov. Roy Cooper, speaking in Charlotte.

4) Charlotte tries to back out of hosting the Republican National Convention

In a tumultuous municipal election, Charlotte’s City Council will turn over their more moderate Democratic members and install a council that’s much farther to the left.

After the council narrowly voted to support hosting the 2020 RNC by a 6-5 vote, the new council will mount a campaign to withdraw. They’ll have the votes — but only the veto of Mayor Vi Lyles will keep the RNC in Charlotte.

5) Jeff Jackson, Kathy Manning and Linda Coleman headline crowded Democratic U.S. Senate primary

Smelling blood, Democrats will pack the primary to challenge U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in 2020.

N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson will be the prohibitive favorite, but Democrats will continue to be self-conscious about putting forward white male candidates. Energized by relatively close Congressional races in 2018, Linda Coleman and Kathy Manning will throw their hats in the ring.

Kathy Manning

6) Supreme Court punts on gerrymandering and Republicans re-draw Congressional districts for 2020

The SCOTUS will again refuse to make a definitive ruling on partisan gerrymandering, too worried about what the ripple effects would be of setting a framework for what’s legal and what’s not. This will set off another two years of uncertainty and ping-ponging court decisions.

Expecting a federal Court of Appeals to insist on new lines drawn by a special master, the General Assembly will preemptively draw new ones for the 2020 contest that will effectively cede one seat in the delegation (sorry, George Holding) but maintain Republican dominance.

Photo of the Court of Federal Appeals (Lewis F. Powell Courthouse) in Richmond, Virginia, by Acroterion via Wikipedia (Creative Commons).

7) State overhauls economic incentive structure

Chastened by continually losing out on major economic development projects, North Carolina will give up on minor tweaks to per-job grants and make wholesale changes to how they recruit new business.

There will be a bitter fight among Republicans, some of whom prefer the incentive-heavy South Carolina model and some of whom prefer creating fertile ground with low taxes and solid education. In the end, the new structure will fall somewhere in between and continue to be relatively ineffective.

Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Photo via Amazon.

8) A third-party candidate gets elected … somewhere.

The Green Party and Constitution Party were the first of North Carolina’s new third parties to get ballot access, and they’ll get much more organized in 2019. Between those two and the Libertarians — one of the parties will win a seat somewhere on some board or council.

Cover photo of the N.C. Capitol building by Jim Bowen via Flickr (Creative Commons).

1 COMMENT

  1. Very interesting predictions. I’d like to comment on just one, the RNC Convention. Charlotte is in a quagmire for two reasons; First it wants to be a convention destination and this is a premier event that will give them the exposure but at the same time the Dems ( and all the radicals they can muster ) will celebrate in how much they can disrupt the convention thus if Charlotte cannot control these radicals it will give Charlotte’s dream of being a convention destination a black eye. If they try and back out now it will confirm that they are not able to meet the challenge. Charlotte’s law enforcement, I believe, is able to meet this challenge physically but maybe not politically. Charlotte’s law enforcement community are some of the best in the profession and can and will meet any challenge facing them but we will see if their political leaders can take the heat. I hope they stand strong. We’ll see.

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